The 18th National Congress of Communist Party of China (CPC), which began on November 8, ended in Beijing, the nation’s capital, with the ratification of Xi Jiping as the new President of China. He will take over in March next year. Omololu Ogunmade who attended the opening session of the congress draws discrepancies between the Chinese political system and that of Nigeria
At the opening session of the 18th National Congress of the People’s Republic of China on November 8, the outgoing President and General Secretary of Communist Party of China (CPC), Hu Jintao, was the cynosure of all eyes. The former president rose from the rear to take the isolated exalted seat prepared for him as the congress leader amidst resounding applause.
As he rose before the large gathering of congress men drawn from party organs in various parts of China, Jintao stood tall in the middle of the assembly with his head bowed as a mark of courtesy to members of the congress amid another round of applause before walking towards his exclusively decorated seat to address the delegates. The intermittent rounds of applause which heralded his introduction as well as the cheering accorded him as he read his 46-page address, was viewed as a mark of honour to a leader who had rendered acceptable service to his people.
As he took his seat and opened his long text of address, Jintao described the congress as “one of great importance when China has entered the decisive stage of completing the building of a moderately prosperous society in all respects.”
Not only was the main auditorium filled to the brim, the gallery, from the first to the third floor, was also fully packed with people. Stern looking security men and women placed at strategic checkpoints outside and inside the state-of-the-art large building christened “The Golden Hall, the Great Hall of the People,” screened everyone to ascertain that such a person had been duly invited. Attendance was strictly by invitation.
At the entrance of the hall, a security device in which the photograph and name of every invited guest had been stored was strategically placed. As the guest stepped onto the platform, the device displayed the photograph and name of such a guest. If anyone’s photograph and name were not displayed by the device, then he had a case to answer before security operatives who would ask him or her to step aside. This is aside the fact that there was accreditation identity card on which the name and photograph of guests, including journalists from across the globe duly invited to cover the event, had been embossed. The event was no doubt a world class standard.
Expectedly, the occasion provided Jintao, who presented his speech in Chinese, the opportunity to give account of his stewardship in the last five years. His report was a manifestation of a government that was aggressive, steady and relentless in the effort to speed up development in the entire spheres of the country’s affairs.
Beginning from the economy where he reported that the development was rapid in the last five years, Jintao submitted that the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) rose to 47.3 trillion Yuan, an equivalent $7.5 trillion last year, adding that the country’s revenue had also increased by a wide margin. He also spoke on the revolution in agriculture, industry and infrastructure.
“China’s overall national strength has grown considerably. The gross domestic product (GDP) reached 47.3 trillion Yuan in 2011 and government revenue increased by a wide margin. The overall agricultural production capacity has increased and grain output has gone up one year after. Fresh progress has been made in adjusting the industrial structure and the infrastructure has been extensively upgraded. Urbanisation has been steadily advanced and development between urban and rural areas and regions has become better balanced.
“Notable progress has been recorded in making China an innovative country and major breakthroughs have been made in manned space flights, the lunar exploration programme and in the development of manned deep-sea submersible, super computers and high speed railways. Solid steps have been taken to promote ecological progress and comprehensive progress has been made in resource conservation and environmental protection.
“China’s overall rural reform, the reform in tenure of collective forests and reform of state-owned enterprises, has been deepened and the non-public sector of the economy has registered sound growth. The country’s modern market system and macro-regulatory system have been steadily improved and its reform of finance, taxation, banking, prices, science and technology, education, social security, medicine and public health and public institutions has steadily progressed. China’s open economy has reached a new level and its import and export volume now ranks second in the world,” Jintao told the congress.
The report showed how simultaneously, the Chinese government had concentrated on development in all strata of the society. Thus, the giant stride that the nation has made in industrial breakthrough which earned it a steady rise from the hitherto sixth largest economy of the world to the second largest did not prompt it to neglect agriculture as it is currently the case in Nigeria where the discovery of oil in commercial quantity in 1958 was the beginning of her gradual decline in agricultural production that was the mainstay of the country prior to oil boom.
Giving a vivid account of the revolutionary role of agriculture in Nigeria in the day preceding oil discovery, a former Head of Department, Mass Communication, University of Lagos, Professor Luke Uche, in his book: “Mass Media, People and Politics in Nigeria,” recalled how the bulk of Nigeria’s foreign exchange earnings up to 1965 were realised mainly from agriculture. Specifically, Uche put Nigeria’s foreign exchange earnings from agriculture at 90 per cent.
According to him, the increased oil exploration began to take toll on the agricultural sector by 1965, barely seven years after the discovery of oil in commercial quantity in Oloibiri, near Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria’s foreign exchange earnings from agriculture had fallen from 90 per cent in 1960 to 61 per cent and by 1974, the decline in agricultural production had drastically brought down its contribution to the nation's economy to paltry eight per cent.
This, however, is not the case in China which had launched Green Revolution several years back with the intention of developing agriculture to its maximum profit yielding level, notwithstanding the aggressive industrial and technological development it has also achieved. Although, China has embarked on aggressive development of its rural settings, transforming them into overnight advanced cities, it has never ceased to exploit every opportunity at its disposal to expand its frontiers in agriculture as the country not only makes huge revenue from agriculture every year but also ensures that it feeds the nation through its agricultural system.
But Nigeria has since lost its place as one of the largest exporters of peanut, palm oil and palm kernel in the world over. In her glorious days, Nigeria was the second largest producer of cocoa and a major exporter of cotton and rubber to other nations of the world. It also looks ironic that the country which played dominant roles in international trade through agriculture now imports significant proportion of her food items.
This practice of importation, unfortunately, has provided an avenue for corruption among Nigerian politicians. Memory is still fresh about the activities of the Presidential Task Force on Rice Importation in the Second Republic. The committee was saddled with the responsibility of overseeing the importation and distribution of rice to prevent the outbreak of hunger during the administration of Alhaji Shehu Shagari. Members of the committee, headed by the then Minister of Transport, Umaru Dikko, became instant millionaires.
Although, China encourages liberal communist system in which its citizens are allowed to own and run businesses, the government takes the wellbeing of its people as a primary responsibility. Not only are houses provided for them, such houses are also equipped with a view to making the occupants comfortable. In the same vein, the Chinese government ensures that unemployment is reduced to the barest minimum level, while clothing and good transport systems are also the lots of the masses of China. All of these were well emphasised by Jintao in his opening address at the congress.
“Efforts to improve the people’s wellbeing have been intensified; urban and rural employment has continued to increase; individual income has increased rapidly; household assets have grown steadily; people’s daily needs such as clothing, food, housing and transportation are better met; subsistence allowances for both rural and urban residents and the rural poverty have been raised by a wide margin and basic enterprise retirees have increased continually,” Jintao disclosed.
Even though Nigeria’s presidential system of government patterned after the United States of America, offers individuals the opportunity to champion ownership and control of means of production, the nation’s constitution aptly provides that the welfare of the people of Nigeria shall be the primary responsibility of the government. Ironically, the reverse appears the case as hapless Nigerian citizens are left to fend for themselves while unemployment has attained an alarming level such that some governments and parastatals are said to now capitalise on the plight of the jobless Nigerian people to extort money from them under the guise of providing them jobs.
A good instance of this unwholesome trend was the report in 2009 about how the then government of Imo State asked unemployed youth in the state to apply for jobs in the civil service with the payment of N10,000. Reports said the jobless and helpless youth in the state descended on any household items they could sell to raise the money to purchase the application form. It was later reported that the “gang” which owned the company that coordinated the scam smiled away to the bank with about N1 billion raised while the rest is now history.
A development as this underscores the level of government’s alleged insensitivity to the plight of her citizenry as well as sheer neglect of its responsibility by taking from those it has refused to provide for.
Nevertheless, China seems to have something in common with Nigeria and that is corruption. This was the fulcrum of Jintao’s presentation during his address at the congress. Unlike the case in Nigeria when Nigerian government, especially the incumbent administration of President Goodluck Jonathan, is accused of merely paying lip service to corruption, Jintao urged the ruling CPC to pay rigorous and aggressive attention to the fight against corruption with a view to promoting integrity and cleansing of the system of all forms of graft.
This declaration gave the impression that there must have been a considerable level of corruption in the system, thus prompting the former leader to hand down such advice to tackle the menace of corruption. He posited that graft was a huge threat to the state of China.
“Combating corruption and political integrity which is a major issue of great concern to the people is a clear-cut long term concern to the party. If we fail to handle this issue well, it could prove fatal for the party and even cause the collapse of the party and the fall of the state. We must make unremitting efforts to combat corruption, promote integrity and stay vigilant against degeneration. We must thus keep to the Chinese-style path of combating corruption and promoting integrity. We should persist in combating corruption and promoting integrity. We should persist in combating corruption in an integrated way, addressing both the symptoms and root causes and combining punishment and preventions with emphasis on the latter.
“We should advance in an all-round way, the establishment of a system of combating corruption through both punishment and prevention and see to it that officials are honest, the government is clean and political integrity is upheld. We should strengthen education about combating corruption and promoting clean government and improve the culture of clean government.
"Leading officials at all levels, especially high ranking officials, must readily observe the code of conduct on clean governance and report all important facts concerned. They should both emphasise strict self-discipline and strengthen education and supervision over their family and staff and they should never seek privilege. We should ensure that strict procedures are followed in the exercise of power and tighten oversight on the exercise of power by leading officials, especially principal leading officials.
“We should deepen reform of key areas and crucial links, improve the system of anti-corruption laws, prevent and manage risks to clean government, avoid conflict of interest, prevent and fight corruption more effectively in a scientific way and increase international anti-corruption co-operation. We should rigorously implement the system of accountability for improving party conduct and upholding integrity. We should improve the system of discipline supervision and inspection, improve the unified management of representative offices of the party commissions for discipline inspection and enable discipline inspectors to better play their roles of supervision.
“We must maintain a tough position in cracking down on corruption at all times, conduct thorough investigations into major corruption cases and work hard to solve problems of corruption that directly affect the people. All those who violate party discipline and state laws, whoever they are and whatever power or official positions they have, must be brought to justice,” he charged.
Coming from an outgoing leader, one clear fact has been established. It is the fact that the Chinese government is not unaware of either the existence of corruption in the system or perhaps the tendency towards the growth of the menace. The instruction Jintao handed down to his incoming successor as well as the party leadership, therefore, only underscored the depth of the party and government’s commitment to fight the scourge.
He did not mince words to state that not only adequate measures should be put in place to arrest the menace; he also emphasised that severe punishment be meted out to anyone caught in the act to serve as deterrent to others who might be gravitated towards corruption. His position on corruption from which Nigeria can learn a huge lesson is exemplified in the remark that if corruption is not confronted head on in China, it can result in not only the collapse of the ruling party but also the entire state.
Ironically, given the criticisms of the attitude of the Nigerian government to corruption, there is the perception that the government has not only failed to come hard on corruption but also portrays itself as one condoning it. Against this background, the alleged moves by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to go into a plea-bargain with culprits of subsidy scam who are currently standing trial have been viewed as one evidence that the government is not prepared to fight graft in a way that will serve as deterrent to others.
Besides, government’s perceived indisposition to the implementation of the report of Presidential Task Force on Oil Sector Reform headed by former Chairman of EFCC, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, has been described as another proof that the government’s body language is antithetical to its claims on the fight against graft. This is also bearing in mind that hundreds of cases and personalities, notably governors and senators are in court without any clear-cut definition of the pattern and progress of their prosecution.
Another issue worth being noted in the Chinese congress was the emphasis on party discipline, which again is not obtainable in Nigeria’s democracy. In China, party decision is supreme and binding. Division within the rank and file of the party and system is rather imagined than seen as anyone who has contrary opinion to decisions reached by the top echelon of the party can only murmur in his private room while such grievances fizzle out as mere dreams. But such level of discipline and unity of purpose and ideas are rare in the Nigerian system.
An instance was the violation of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) zoning formula before and after the last general election which threw up both the president and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, against the party’s agreed zoning principle.
Another recent experience was the polarisation of the rank and file of the PDP in Ondo State which resulted in the expulsion of some leading members of the party in the heat of campaign for the October 20 governorship election in the state.
Thus, a faction of the party led by Professor Olu Agbi would rather declare open support for Governor Olusegun Mimiko, candidate of Labour Party as against supporting the candidate of its own party, Chief Olusola Oke. In China, exhibiting such an act of indiscipline and disregard to the tenets and beliefs of the party is suicidal.
This was stressed in Jintao’s address when he said: “Party organisations at all levels and all party members and officials, especially the leading officials, must willingly abide by the party’s constitution as well as its organisational principles and guiding principles for its political activities and no one is allowed to place oneself above the party organisation. All party organisations and members must resolutely uphold authority of the central committee and maintain a high degree of unity with it, theoretically, politically and in action.”
Further, he added: “We must faithfully implement the party’s theories, principles and policies and ensure that the decisions of the central committee are carried out effectively and we will never allow anyone to take counter measures against them or disregard them. We will strengthen oversight and inspection, strictly enforce party discipline, political discipline in particular and take stern actions against violations of party discipline. We must ensure that all are equal before discipline, that nobody has the privilege of not observing it and that no exception should be made in its enforcement. This will enable the whole party to form leadership to the rank advance in unison as a great force.”
From the above submission, discipline is supreme in CPC and not even the president who as the party leader doubles as its General Secretary is above the decision of the party. Rather, it is binding on both the small and great, ordinary and prominent member as well as principal officers of the party. This again contrasts with what is prevalent in Nigeria’s political system where the president as the leader of the party or a national leader of an opposition party is the sole decider of what runs in the party or who holds which office.
For instance, in the opposition Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), the national leader, Mr. Bola Tinubu, is the all-in-all. Party rules, principles and manifesto must be in accordance with his feelings and views. He decides who is fielded for elections from the local government to the state and national levels. In China, the party leader also known as the General Secretary lacks such overwhelming power and influence as he himself is duty bound to abide by the party’s rules and principles.
Also in China’s CPC, the people are placed at the centre of decisions as according to Jintao, “serving the people is the fundamental purpose of the party and putting people first and exercising governance for the people is the ultimate yardstick for judging all the party’s performance in this regard.”
The reverse, unfortunately, is the case in Nigeria where the people are the underdogs. Nigerian political parties, unlike the case before independence and in the first and second republics, lack welfarist policies deliberately tailored towards alleviating the plights of the people and simultaneously upgrading their living standard.
The Action Group (AG) and Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) both led by the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, drew their cardinal policies from the point of view of the masses’ wellbeing. The parties’ cardinal policies revolved around education for all, free health services, housing for all, rural development and integration and life more abundant. But today, prosperity and life more abundant are the lots only of elected and appointed officers while the generality of the people struggle to survive. The government and ruling party of China work assiduously to put the people’s interest on the front burner.
A major side effect to China’s party system is its insistence to sustain the practice of socialism with government controlling the entire instruments of state. While the whole world expects China to relax in its communist system, it rather resolved from the last congress that it would not by any means deviate from it in accordance with “Chinese characteristics” and in observance of Marxism-Leninism and Mao Zedong Thoughts as well as Deng Xiaoping Theory. Xiaoping, though late, is highly revered in China and portrayed as the father of Modern China, having been the prime mover of the economic and political development of China in 1978.
Ironically, Xiaoping was never the President of China, neither was he at any time the party’s general secretary. He was only the vice president at the time he invented various innovative measures put forward for the development and advancement of the hitherto backward, third world Chinese nation which today is a first world nation ranked as the second largest economy of the world coming only after the United States of America.
Jintao, therefore, emphasised that the scientific outlook on the development of China was predicated on the integration of Marxism with the reality of the contemporary China. To the shock of the world therefore, Jintao said for several years to come, China must sustain the practice of socialism with emphasis on what he described as the “Chinese characteristics.”
“Together with Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thoughts, Deng Xiaoping Theory and the important thought of three representatives, the scientific outlook on development is the theoretical guidance the party must adhere to for a long time. As we advance towards the future, thoroughly applying the scientific outlook on development is of major immediate significance and far-reaching historical significance for upholding and developing socialism with Chinese characteristics. We must apply it throughout the course of modernisation and to every aspect of party building.”
This might appear stunning, especially that most nations of the world which practised socialism had jettisoned the system for a more liberal system of government where citizens are free to make their own choices of parties and candidates without any force of law. But in China, only the CPC dictates the pace while citizens are left without option than to abide by its dictates and principles.
Thus, the recent transition in which Jinping emerged as Jintao’s would-be successor had been premeditated before the so-called election. The system automatically threw up Jinping as against claims that he was elected. This system, as a result, leaves the entire citizens of China with no choice than to accept whoever is imposed on them as it is usually the case in socialism.
For critics of this system of government, it runs foul of the principles of democracy aptly defined as the government of the people, by the people and for the people. The central question thrown up by the mode of China’s socialist system is whether its decisions are really accepted to the citizenry who are left with no option than to comply with whatever is brought their way.
Another issue thrown up by Jintao’s counsel to successive leaders of the party to ensure that they do not by any means deviate from socialism as handed down by their ancestors is how long they would be able to sustain the system as both socialism and communism have a way of denying the people their rights and freedom to run enterprises as well as participate in the government and governance of their country. This is also against the backdrop that the system has been stereotyped and the hierarchy created and designed as handed down by the party leadership known as the central committee.
But as China continues with its economic advancement and transformation, it is left to be seen how long it can sustain the system and determine the people’s will under the continued interest of the power that be.